A valid United States passport is required for most international travel by an American citizen. Your passport can be renewed at any time, though the Department of State website suggests renewing it within nine months of the passport expiration date, found on the passport's data page. Passports for Americans ages 16 and older are valid for 10 years, while those for younger children can be used for five years. Specific renewal requirements vary depending on a variety of factors, including when your passport was issued and your age when you applied for your current passport.

By Mail

Most passports can be renewed by mail at any time during the passport's validity period, or within five years after your passport has expired. If your current passport is in good condition and able to be submitted with your renewal application, issued after your 16th birthday and within the past 15 years, and has your current legal name on it, you may renew by mail. If the name on your passport does not match your legal name but you can provide legal name change documentation, you also may renew by mail at any time.

In Person

Passport holders seeking to renew a passport that has been lost, stolen or damaged must renew in person. If your most recent passport has not been issued within the past 15 years or it was issued before you turned 16, you also must apply in person at a Passport Acceptance Facility. These passports can be renewed at any time, though the process requires requesting a new passport, and all applicants must complete the same documentation as first-time passport applicants.


Like other passport holders, children may renew a passport at any time, but passports issued before a child's 16th birthday expire within five years and must be renewed in person at a Passport Acceptance Facility by completing a new passport application form.


Passport processing takes up to 10 weeks during the busier times of year, notes the U.S. Department of State website. Renew your passport well in advance of your travel to ensure you receive it before your trip. Check with the countries you are traveling to if your passport is nearing its expiration date, as some countries require visitors to hold a passport that is valid for at least six months. Americans living outside of the United States and Canada may renew their passport at any time by visiting the nearest United States Embassy or Consulate.